No Runs, No Hits, No Errors

By Jane Greensmith
www.janegs.com

Copyright 2004.
 All rights reserved.

Chapter 2

 

"So you're K-B-K 's ringer this year?"

Kathleen looked up blankly at Mike Eastman as he handed her a glass of wine and one to her date, Gabe Garcia. Kathleen and Gabe were having dinner Saturday night with the newlywed Eastmans, Mike and Dorie. Dorie Taylor Eastman had been Kathleen's dance teacher in high school and they had stayed close even after Kathleen had gone to college and Dorie had opened her own dance studio. Mike was a five-year veteran of the Dixon , Dabney, and Colfax law firm, K-B-K Engineering's chief rival in the Juniper Hills Park-n-Rec slow pitch league. The other teams varied from year to year--sometimes the car dealers would put together a team, sometimes the medics, sometimes the teachers--but the Dixon , Dabney, and Colfax Legal Eagles and the K-B-K Trojans were perennial foes.

Since Kathleen was clearly clueless regarding his remark, Mike continued, "Every year Harry Kinsley's roster conveniently comes up short by one or two women. Each team has to field at least five men and five women--we play ten on a side, including a rover.  And every year, Harry gets permission to recruit outside of K-B-K.  Says he doesn't have enough female employees for the team. I don't know how he does it, but he always finds these Amazonian females who can hit the ball out of the park and ought to be in a league of their own."

Gabe laughed and then went on to relate a rather long story about his sister's fast pitch team.  Kathleen's head started to ache again. She had been so looking forward to a sports-free evening with her best friends and her new heartthrob Gabe. Gabe, that is, Gabriel Garcia, was an archeologist she had met at the museum where she had interned during her senior year. His field was native southwestern culture and her thesis had been on tracing prehistoric archetypes in Acoma pottery. With a little finagling on her part, she was able to land Gabe as her advisor and they had actually dated a little during the last semester, tentatively and quietly violating the student-teacher relationship taboo. So, when Gabe called from out of the blue to ask her out while he was passing through Juniper Hills on his way to Mesa Verde for a summer gig, Kathleen proudly brought him to dinner at the Eastman's.

Until now, the date had been going swimmingly.  Dorie clearly approved of Gabe's courtly manners and Spanish accent as well as the broad shoulders that swelled beneath his khaki shirt, and she had surreptitiously given Kathleen a thumb's up before secluding herself in the kitchen to perform last-minute magic on dinner. No, the evening hadn't been bad at all until Gabe and Mike found that damnable common ground, sports.

"I think Kathleen has made a study out of avoiding anything related to sports" Gabe teased, as he finally wrapped up his story.

Mike agreed enthusiastically and was about to tell his favorite Kathleen story, which involved her meeting the Denver Broncos quarterback at a fund-raiser and embarrassing herself when she had no idea who he was.

Dorie came to her friend's rescue, raising her voice from the kitchen. "You guys stop hassling Kathleen. And Mike," she said, standing in the kitchen doorway with her hands on her hips, her eyes alight with amusement, "Kathleen is many things, but she's clearly not an Amazon. And she actually works for K-B-K so she's not a ringer. You and Harry Kinsley are just so gung-ho about this silly softball rivalry. You're going to have Gabe thinking that everyone in Juniper Hills is crazy. Harry asked Kathleen to play and she's never even played before, so it's clear that he's just putting together a friendly little team."

Mike pretended to remain unconvinced and good-naturedly argued with his wife about the wily ways of K-B-K and Harry Kinsley in particular.

Gabe draped an arm around Kathleen's slender shoulders and smiled indulgently at her. "You really have never played ball before? You mean, not ever? Not even in gym class?"

Kathleen sighed. She wished she didn't have to explain this to every interesting man she encountered. "I never had to take gym in school. You see I have a hole in my heart, or I did when I was born, and so the doctors warned my parents not to let me overexert myself."

"But what about all that dancing you've told me about?"

Dorie came into the living room and set down a tray of hors d'oeuvres--cracked green olives, roasted red peppers, goat cheese, and French bread--and gave her friend a protective smile.

"What Dorie would like to say, but is too polite," said Kathleen, "is that I was never really a contender. I took ballet and jazz for fun but not to be a prima anything. I just wanted to have fun and stay in shape..." Her voice drifted off, and Dorie masterfully steered the conversation away from sports and Harry Kinsley and competition and all the subjects she knew Kathleen found upsetting.

Later, in the kitchen while they were making coffee and putting dessert together, Dorie gave Kathleen a quick hug. "He's nice, sweetie," she said breathily. "You make a cute couple. He's a rugged guy and you're a china doll. And you both like art and all that stuff. You think he might be it?"

"I don't know, Dorie. I'm about ready to give up. I honestly am. Maybe my hormones are messed up or something. I read an article once that said if your hormones are out of balance you never feel the zing. I've never felt the zing, and I've gone out with lots of guys. Gabe is great--he's the best--but it's like it always is...no flutter in my stomach, no sweaty palpitations, no accelerated heart beat. I mean, shouldn't I be feeling sick or crazy or something."

Dorie nodded. "The night you introduced me to Mike, I thought I was going to throw up. I knew then and there that he was the right man for me."

"Exactly. But I always feel so in control. There must be something wrong with me."

"Oh, don't worry, honey. Maybe Gabe will make you feel nauseous in time."

At this, both women started giggling and then they spilled the coffee on the tray and had to start over.

"Guess..." Dorie began as she rinsed and wiped the tray, "who picked up Joanna Bridges at the airport today?"

" Dixon , Dabney, and Colfax?" Kathleen replied without missing a beat.

Dorie raised an eyebrow, "What have you heard," she whispered.

Kathleen hadn't heard anything but was there something to hear, she wanted to know. Dorie put her off by answering her original question. "Harry Kinsley picked up Joanna," she declared triumphantly.

Kathleen instinctively clutched the kitchen counter as her stomach lurched slightly. Her jaw suddenly tight with tension, she disdainfully replied that Harry was simply keeping Lettie Bridges and her Miata off the interstate.

"The woman drives like a bat out of hell. Why else do you think Harry drives her everywhere? I thought it was only men who bought sports cars when they turned forty."

Dorie giggled and told Kathleen to shush. And then she whispered. "I think Harry has been in love with Joanna for years, but he's never gotten up the nerve to tell her how he feels about her. She's just such a...she's just so...so..."

"Oh, for crying out loud, Dorie. Are you pregnant, girl? Is that why your brain is so addled? Harry Kinsley without nerve! The man is total nerve, all nerve, and he gets on my nerves. There isn't an ounce of self-doubt in his entire body. Besides he's so much older than she is. He'd be robbing the cradle and he knows it. And why would he want a trophy wife when he's already got so many freaking baseball trophies? No honey, you're wrong on this one." Kathleen tossed her head and gave her final argument, "She's not his type anyway."

"So what is his type, Miss I-know-everything-about-Harry-Kinsley?"

"Oh, I don't know. I never think about Harry if I can help it. But he doesn't ogle, I'll give him that much. And there's not much point to Joanna Bridges beyond ogling, is there?"

Dorie pursed her lips. "You sound very much like you don't want Harry to be interested in Joanna."

"Dorie, my dear, I don't give a rip who he's interested in, but I do know that you're wrong. And," Kathleen smiled sweetly, "I also know that there's a lovely man in your living room who went out of his way to stop in little ole Juniper Hills just to see me, and I don't want to keep him waiting one more minute."

But to Kathleen's dismay, when she returned to the living room she found that Gabe and Mike had used the time she and Dorie had been in the kitchen to forge deep and lasting bonds of friendship. Not only did they discover a shared antipathy for the Chicago Cubs, but they had also visited Cooperstown during the same month the previous summer. Kathleen slumped down next to Gabe, who barely acknowledged her presence before returning to the heavy, philosophical discussion he was having with Mike on how to rid the game once and for all of astroturf, aluminum bats, Pete Rose, and the designated hitter.

Half an hour later, the men were still deep in the conversation. Kathleen looked Dorie straight in the eye and mouthed "Goodbye zing!" before sinking back into the couch. Dorie would have laughed if she hadn't seen the disappointment in Kathleen's eyes.

Later, when Gabe pulled up to the house Kathleen shared with her father and walked her to the door and waited for her to ask him in, Kathleen simply kissed his cheek and wished him a good summer and went inside.

Kathleen let the curtain fall as Gabe's car turned the corner and out of sight. She wiped away a tear, and then picked up the phone and called the man who was on the docket as the weekend's date number three. Spending Sunday sailing with a stock broker and listening to him talk didn't seem like fun anymore. Maybe she'd just hang around the house and face the fact that she just wasn't the type of person who could ever really fall in love.

#

Sunday dawned gray and wet. Kathleen got up early and swam laps at the pool. She went home and read. She wrote email letters to friends. She killed time. She didn't regret canceling her sailing date. To have it be cold and miserable as well as dull and disappointing would have been too much to bear. She didn't even regret knowing that she would probably never hear from Gabe Garcia again. So what if she would never get to meet his mother and try what Gabe had promised was the world's best carne adovada. So what if she would never get to watch his sister's Mexican dance troupe perform. So what if she would never wander Santa Fe 's art galleries with a man who could tell kachinas from kitsch. Lovely as he was, she and Gabe weren't on the same wavelength after all.  

After lunch she wandered down to her father's laboratory and sat on a stool and watched him work. Since he had retired five years earlier, after Kathleen's mother had succumbed to breast cancer, he had indulged in his passion--plastic prosthetics. He wrote a monthly column for Prevention magazine on the topic, advising his readers on replacement parts for eyes, limbs, teeth, and various appendages. He had several patents pending and was on multiple boards of directors. Harry Kinsley may whisper in Kathleen's ear that the Kavenaugh money was ill-gotten at the hands of her robber-baron ancestors, but she and her father knew that the Kavenaugh name was revered around the world as the first name in artificial biomechanics.

"Are you going to Colleen and Jack's for dinner?" Byron asked his daughter after they had sat in comfortable silence for awhile. He had been working out the kinks in a ball-and-socket joint for a new hip he was designing and had reached a roadblock.

"Are you?"

"Only if you are. Although I do want to see Gramma Bridges and ask her how the new eye is working out."

"Will the Bridges be there?" Kathleen wasn't sure she was up to chit-chatting with Lettie given her post-Gabe mood, and encountering the fabulous Joanna was not high on her list either. The last time she and Joanna Bridges were in the same room...well, anyway, it just wasn't a good idea for them to socialize.

"Bound to be. With Joanna flying in last night, Colleen's going to feel that if she doesn't have them all over they'll be insulted. 

"What will we have for dinner if we don't go?"

"Boiled eggs and gruel." Kathleen's father was hot on a new vegetarian diet that Kathleen found slightly excessive.

"Let's go, then."

#

"How's your hand?"

Kathleen would have known that purr anywhere. She looked up from her perch on one of Colleen's bar stools to see Joanna Bridges sidling up to Harry as he stood behind the bar, mixing a pitcher of margaritas.

Harry smiled warmly at the tall, shapely goddess in the white sundress who had just decided that this was the best of all possible times to give him a neck massage. He sighed with pleasure as she slipped her slender thumbs under the collar of his crisp tee-shirt.

She's going to send him to the emergency room again if she keeps that up while he slices lime wedges, was what Kathleen thought. Followed closely by, I think I'm going to be sick.   What she said, however, was, "It wasn't even broken. Just sprained."

Joanna slowly turned her almond eyes on Kathleen and smiled slightly, pearly whites glistening under her luscious lips. "Oh, hello there, Kathleen. Didn't see you come in."

She slowly withdrew a hand from Harry's neck and reached out to shake Kathleen's hand, while still resting the other hand proprietarily on Harry's back. "How've you been? Still in school?"

Her words were languid and, Kathleen was forced to admit, extremely sexy. If she had been a man, she would probably be in love with Joanna along with the rest of them. If she wouldn't feel like an idiot, she would probably try to talk like that as well.

"Sprains take longer to heal than breaks, Kathleen," Harry said firmly, placing a salt-rimmed glass in front of Kathleen and handing another to Joanna. Kathleen noticed that he slid from beneath Joanna's embrace with the fluidity of a cat.

"So you've been telling me since Christmas, Harry. Although I didn't see you favoring the wrist just now." Kathleen cocked an eyebrow at her favorite adversary and waited.

"Months it took. Months of weight training to get my full strength back."

"You would have gone to the gym anyway."

"That's not the point."

Kathleen closed her eyes in mock pain. "So what is the point?"

Of course, she knew the point. She had been hearing the point since the ill-fated Christmas Eve party when she had finally had enough of Joanna Bridges and had resolved not to let her ruin Colleen's party by rearranging the furniture just to show off her legs while she played the piano. Unfortunately, Harry Kinsley and his wrist had gotten in the way and it had been twisted at ungodly angles as Kathleen, Joanna, and Colleen's prize baby grand wrestled with the wall. It had not been a pretty scene. Kathleen had not been proud of her lack of poise. But she had silently crowed that she had actually bested Joanna Bridges for the first time in her life. Joanna did not play Christmas carols that night in the burlesque fashion that seemed to characterize her every move, and Kathleen took all the credit for it.

"I don't know why you couldn't have left the piano where Joanna moved it. You have no upper body strength."

"On that point, we are all in violent agreement. But, may I remind you, you should have helped me as I asked you instead of..."

Jack Kinsley, with unerring good timing, appeared to announce that everyone was needed outside for volleyball. Joanna dutifully linked her arm with his and declared that she hadn't played since the Vogue tournament on Maui but would do her best.

Harry came up behind Kathleen as she headed for the door, trailing Joanna's shadow. He laid a hand on her arm. She stopped.

"You okay?" he asked.

She looked at him quizzically.

"I thought you were going sailing today?" he continued.

"Didn't feel up to it." She smiled weakly. "Harry, I am sorry about your wrist. Really I am. It's just that she's so..."

"I consider it your finest moment."

She looked into his eyes. For the first time in years, maybe for the first time since she was a little girl, she saw the pure friendship that glowed from the deep brown pools flecked with gold.

"I didn't think I had any fine moments in your eyes."

"Let's ditch the volleyball game."

"Okay." Kathleen was jubilant. She wouldn't be harassed about not joining in  with Harry as her ally. Her jubilation was short-lived.

"Want to play catch?"

"Can't we just watch the volleyball game?"

"You need to learn to throw and catch." He put his arm around her and squeezed her shoulder, coach style. "It's fun."

"You'll laugh at me." She looked into his eyes again. She bit her lip.

"I promise I won't," he said softly.  "Now go and get Colleen's glove."

"Aye cap'n," she said, saluting him with a saucy look.

 

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